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How the Second Lebanon War Set the Stage for the War in Syria and the Rise of Iran

Aug. 30 2017

Israel’s war with Hizballah in 2006 seems unrelated to today’s internecine strife in Syria. But in the view of Eyal Zisser, the two conflicts are connected by a thread that runs through the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the Iraq war, Syria’s own withdrawal from Lebanon, and Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East:

Both [the Lebanon war and the Syrian civil war] are manifestations of the inherent weakness of state players in the region, i.e., the Arab states of the Middle East. These states have been weakened and in some cases have all but disappeared, leaving in their wake a vacuum filled by quasi-state organizations like Hizballah and Hamas. . . .

More importantly, these two events are a blatant demonstration of Iran’s penetration into the Levant as part of its drive to attain regional hegemony. . . . In fact, the Second Lebanon War and the Syrian civil war have strengthened Iran’s presence in the region, even if the wars have taken a steep toll on [Hizballah’s leader] Hassan Nasrallah and on Bashar al-Assad, Tehran’s local clients. The situation presents Israel with a dilemma as to the right response to the challenge generated by Iran. . . .

Until [Assad succeeded his father, Hafez] in June 2000, Syria had been the entity that set the tone in everything having to do with Lebanon, including Iran’s presence there. Syria had a military presence in Lebanon and controlled the country with an iron fist, while more than once exerting a moderating influence on Hizballah. Moreover, all the political powers in Lebanon subordinated themselves to Damascus and even conducted their communications with Hizballah through Syria. . . .

After Syria was compelled to remove its forces from Lebanon in the spring of 2005, Hizballah finally crawled out from under Syria’s shadow, and together with Iran became the entity that helped Assad withstand the American pressure on him (in the wake of the September 11 attacks and the fall of Saddam Hussein). The Second Lebanon War intensified this trend, increasing the personal, political, and even military dependence of the Syrian president on Iran and Hizballah.

This dependence, and Iranian regional influence, have grown even greater since the civil war began in Syria.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon, Second Lebanon War, Syrian civil war

The Palestinian National Movement Has Reached a Point of Crisis

With Hamas having failed to achieve anything through several weeks of demonstrations and violence, and Mahmoud Abbas reduced to giving rambling anti-Semitic speeches, Palestinian aspirations seem to have hit a brick wall. Elliott Abrams explains:

[Neither] Fatah [nor] Hamas offers Palestinians a practical program for national independence. . . . [The current situation] leaves Palestinians high and dry, with no way forward at all. Whatever the criticism of the “occupation,” Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. . . . There are only two other options. The first is the “one-state solution,” meaning union with Israel; but that is a nonstarter that Israel will reject no matter who is its prime minister. The other option is some kind of eventual link to Jordan.

In polite diplomatic society, and in Palestinian public discourse, such a link cannot be mentioned. But younger people who visit there, Palestinians have explained to me, can see a society that is half-Palestinian and functions as an independent nation with a working system of law and order. Jordanians travel freely, rarely suffer from terrorism, and [can vote in regular] elections, even if power is ultimately concentrated in the royal palace. The kingdom has close relations with all the Sunni states and the West, and is at peace with Israel.

The fundamental question all this raises is what, in 2018, is the nature and objective of Palestinian nationalism. Is the goal sovereignty at all costs, no matter how long it takes and even if it is increasingly divorced from peace, prosperity, and personal freedom? Is “steadfastness” [in refusing to compromise with Israel] the greatest Palestinian virtue now and forever? These questions cannot be debated in either Gaza or the West Bank. But as Israel celebrates 70 years and the “occupation” is now more than a half-century old, how much longer can they be delayed? . . .

The catastrophic mishandling of Palestinian affairs by generations of leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini (the pro-Nazi mufti of the British Mandate period) to Yasir Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas has been the true Palestinian Nakba.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians